Bag tax coming to England

Bag tax coming to England

By Bobby Elliott, Resource Recycling

Liberal Democrats in England have received support from their Conservative party counterparts to push ahead with a country-wide tax on single-use plastic bags.

The five pence tax, which will go into effect following general elections in 2015, will apply to single-use plastic bags offered at major retailers and grocery chains employing more than 250 workers, according to a report in the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. Companies will be encouraged — but not required — to donate the money raised through the tax to environmental charities.

Proponents of the tax argue that it will solve the country's rising dependency on single-use plastic bags and support businesses bringing reusable biodegradable bags to market.

"We hope this change will massively reduce the use of plastic bags and encourage re-use," Ed Lavey, Liberal Democrat and environmental secretary told the BBC. "The way people can avoid paying this charge is by re-using and not using plastic bags."

Lord de Mauley, the Conservative environment minister, also offered his support, stating: "Year-on-year, the numbers of bags issued by retailers has been rising. Without a charge, the problem could escalate out of control and see our environment and animals suffer enormously."

Conversely, some opponents of the plan have argued that a rise in the use of reusable and biodegradable bags would actually lead to an increase of litter. "It also sends the message that littering biodegradable bags will be acceptable," Packaging & Films Association (PAFA) CEO Barry Turner told Plastics & Rubber Weekly. "The reality is that small particles from discarded degradable bags are more likely to be ingested by wildlife."

Michael Flynn, chairman of the Carrier Bag Consortium, which is also a part of PAFA, expressed his concern to Plastics & Rubber Weekly that a bag tax would harm the industry's efforts to increase recycling of single-use plastic bags.

"Our industry is already playing a full part in facing the nation's recycling challenge, and the government's attention and money should be directed to developing a full sustainable U.K. recycling industry to stop exports of our 'dumped waste' and reduce our reliance on landfill," Flynn said.

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